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Conquering Sleep Deprivation

Michael Shi, Copy Editor

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The next time you see a swimmer, go up to them and hug them, because they are deprived and destitute creatures in need of one of the fundamental aspects of existence. No, I’m not talking about a social life. I’m talking about sleep. Here at DVHS, I’m sure we’re all extremely busy and barely have time to catch some rest, but swimmers may have it worst than most. When I was on the swim team, I had morning practice in addition to afternoon practice, often waking up at 4:00 AM just to spend hours in the frigid water. Add on homework and other extracurriculars, and I had a lot less sleep than I would have liked. But some people take it even further- there are students at Dougherty who survive on only a few hours of sleep every night, or constantly pull off all-nighters. Crazy, right? Lack of sleep is a big problem for many students, and it is in their best interests to try and find a solution.

We’ve all heard the irritatingly pervasive “teenagers need nine hours of sleep every night!” argument, but is it really true? According to the National Sleep Foundation, which is probably reputable, we “need about 9 ¼ hours… to function best.” For some of us, that information is ludicrous and unattainable- we can’t remember the last time we broke five hours. For others, we’re at a more comfortable seven-ish hours. Either way, these low amounts may feel fine, but there are negative consequences that can get quite severe. Lack of sleep can lead to aggressive behavior, depression, memory loss, limited cognition, weight gain, illness and even acne! If you’re tired, you may perform poorly on critical tasks like testing or driving, or simply feel like crap. So get off Reddit and go to sleep, because it’s good for you.

But what if you’re too busy? What if you just don’t have the time to get a good nine hours in? Fortunately, are a few options that may interest you.

Naps are great. After a long day of tests and stress, there’s nothing better than passing out on your couch for an hour. But be mindful of how long you nap. Your sleep actually has phases, and if your naps are longer than half an hour or so, you will enter deep sleep, which is harder to wake up from. That explains the times that you woke up from a nap, feeling even drowsier than before. If you do have time and want to feel better-rested, a 90-minute nap will usually allow your phases to pass so that you feel more recovered. On a tangent, short naps will allow you to power through those dreaded all-nighters as optimally as you can, but I think the esteemed Onion puts it best- “Pulling an all-nighter required energy and focus, so get a good seven or eight hours of sleep before you begin.”

There is also polyphasic sleep, meaning you sleep multiple times a day, as opposed to monophasic or biphasic. There are many theories and methods of achieving this, aiming to minimize the time asleep while still remaining healthy and functional. The various sleep models include more generous ones, such as a biphasic model consisting of a six-hour sleep period complemented by a 90-minute nap, as well as more unforgiving routines like the “Übermensch pattern,” which constitutes a 20-minute nap every four hours, meaning six naps or two hours of sleep per day (yes, it’s real, but I don’t recommend you try it). Also, make sure to be as consistent as possible- if you sleep three hours one night and seven the next, it does not equate to five hours each night (who would’ve thought that the things they teach you in math can’t be applied to real life?), so it is best if you try to fall asleep and wake up at around the same time. Perhaps a polyphasic model works for you, or perhaps you prefer a straight seven or eight hours. Just make sure you stay healthy and happy.

Unfortunately, the system is conspiring against us.  All humans have a biological clock, or Circadian rhythm, commanding them to sleep and wake in a pattern that fits the 24-hour day and that fluctuates sleepiness in accordance to the time. However, there is research indicating that teenagers have a biological clock that is not in tune with the way most school schedules are set up. Our sleeping patterns shift, meaning our bodies demand we sleep and wake later so that we feel tired in the morning and alert in the evening. The Center for Advancing Health states that “delaying school start-times by an hour or more increases the amount of sleep adolescents get and improves their performance in school.” But this seems unlikely to occur, and it seems we must do our best with what we have.

There are many among us who are plagued with problems in our sleep, such as insomnia. As I am not a trained medical professional, I don’t have much to say on this topic. If you are having serious trouble falling asleep, and it is impairing your well-being or functionality, you should definitely go see a doctor. There’s also something called sleep paralysis, which is pretty much what it sounds like. I’ve experienced it before, and it’s not very fun. Some victims have reported terrifying visions, and in the folklore of many cultures it is described with pleasant experiences such as “being eaten by a demon” or “a spirit sitting on your chest.” To combat sleep paralysis, simply adopt a healthier, less erratic sleeping schedule, or avoid sleeping in the supine position (on your back, which is believed to make it easier for sleep paralysis to occur). If you are seized by a bout of sleep paralysis, focus on wiggling your fingers and toes, which may allow you to regain control of your body more quickly and get rid of those pesky demons.

Whatever your situation, you should aim for as much sleep as possible. You’ll soon notice the beneficial effects it brings upon all aspects of your life. I hope this article has informed or at least entertained you, and I wish you luck in finding your ticket to a better night’s sleep.

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The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.
Conquering Sleep Deprivation